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Buying a Category C or D write off

By raccars Published

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You may have noticed the terms 'Category C' or 'Cat D' in used car ads, but should you buy?

Classified ads are full of jargon, and one term which regularly appears in adverts for used cars is 'Category C' or 'Cat D'. These cars have been deemed to be write-offs by insurers. You may have noticed that cars selling with this description tend to be cheaper than similar models. But before being tempted to part with any cash, make sure that you understand exactly what you are buying. An RAC Car Passport is a handy way to find out the complete history of a car, including whether it has been written off.

When dealing with vehicle claims, insurers class a car as a write-off if it is either impossible or uneconomic to repair. These are then divided into sub-categories named from A to D.

Categories A and B

A Category A write off has been so badly damaged, usually by an accident or fire, that it cannot ever be repaired and safely returned to the road. Category A cars are so far gone that they are usually crushed without even looking for salvageable parts. Category B cars can also never be repaired and will be crushed after any usable parts have been salvaged.

Category C and D write-offs, however, can be an interesting prospect. In this case insurers have deemed the cars uneconomic to repair. This doesn't mean they cannot be repaired but that the cost of doing so would be higher than paying the owner the market value of the car. Our own RAC vehicle inspection can help you to determine these costs for as little as £99.

Insurers inevitably go for the cheapest option so the cars are declared write-offs but can legally be returned to the road if the appropriate repairs are carried out. The reason they can be a cost-effective purchase for a private buyer is because insurers are obliged to follow a long list of rules and regulations when organising repair work. These can increase the cost of putting a car back on the road to a far greater extent than that associated with repairs by a private owner.

Category D

In some cases the damage may appear relatively minor, but buyers considering buying a Category C or D write off need to understand that the car has suffered some degree of damage, usually caused by an accident.

A Cat D car, for example, may have received only a dent which would cost an insurer about £800 to repair. However at ten years old, the car might only be worth £1,000, in which circumstance the insurer decides that it's easier to declare it a write-off. A clever private buyer could perhaps effect a repair for £50, by buying a replacement panel from a salvage yard and fitting it themselves. Provided that the advert clearly states the car's Category D status, it is perfectly legal to sell on.

Category C

Category C cars have usually suffered a greater level of damage than Cat D, and after being repaired require a Vehicle Identity Check from the DVSA to be taxable and legally return to the road. However the VIC doesn't confirm the quality and integrity of any repairs effected so buyers may benefit from an RAC vehicle inspection by a professional before they risk parting with any cash.

For shrewd buyers, one of these cars can be a bargain, but it's worth considering the longer term picture. Residual values of cars with Cat C or D status will always be significantly lower than equivalent models, even if there's no visible evidence of past damage. You may also find that some insurers refuse to cover write-offs or may apply a higher premium.

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